Editorial: Parents’ interests in abortion law delayed again
Abortion is a surgical procedure, one with physical and emotional ramifications. We would not deny a parent’s role in any other area of a child’s health care. We should not deny parents a role in such a life-altering decision.
That is why we were prepared to welcome the decision Wednesday of the state’s Medical Disciplinary Board, which did not extend a 90-day grace period on the parental notification law and cleared the way for its enforcement at long last.
But it wasn’t to be.
Just a few hours later, a judge issued a temporary restraining order delaying enforcement of the law. The American Civil Liberties Union opposed the medical board’s action, and the judge wanted to hear the ACLU’s arguments.
We wish the group would just give up the fight.
Our children have very few rights that escape the purview of parents. Parents are asked to monitor their children’s every move, including accompanying them to the viewing of an R-rated movie. Parents are required to sign off on kids taking aspirin.
Yet they are expected to step aside when their minor girl decides to have an abortion, a choice she will have to live with for the rest of her life.
Where’s the sense — or the responsibility — in that?
Don’t get us wrong. We back freedom of choice on abortion. We are not for denying the option of abortion to underage girls. But we firmly believe they should not go through this alone. The law calls for notification, not consent.
There are circumstances in which girls would be better off without their parents being involved in the decision — if a child has been abused, for example.
The law requires a doctor to inform a parent, grandparent or legal guardian at least 48 hours before a minor receives an abortion, but there are exceptions. A judge can waive notification if there is evidence of physical or sexual abuse. The judge must rule within 48 hours whether to grant a waiver and, if the waiver if refused, the minor can appeal.
The law, the Illinois Parental Notice of Abortion Act, has been in a holding pattern for too long. It was first passed in 1995, but an unbelievable 14 years of legal clarifications and objections have kept it from being enforced. Support for a parental notification law goes back 30 years.
It was only last summer, with the favorable ruling of a three-judge panel of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, that it appeared parents’ interests would finally prevail.
The latest delay makes us wonder when, if ever, Illinois can join at least 41 states that have some kind of parental notification.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, which studies reproductive health, 22 states require at least one parent’s consent, 10 require prior notification of at least one parent, and two states require notification and consent. Seven other states have parental notification laws tied up in court.
Opponents of notification worry the law discourages girls with abusive or neglectful parents from seeking an abortion. While that is a legitimate concern, we don’t believe responsible parents should pay the price. The fact is, most girls would tell their parents anyway. Studies also show notification laws have little effect on abortion rates in a state.
This Editorial Board knows we don’t live in a perfect world, in which every girl in trouble tells her parents and relishes doing so. Ultimately, though, respecting the role of the parent in a child’s medical decision is the only logical and moral thing a state can do.
Rockford Register Star